Thursday, 6 September 2012

Charlotte Rollins: an enigma

This posting is updated sept. 13th with important new facts: here*

Charlotte Rollins
(born probably around 1880 and last mentioned in 1933)

(probably) British printmaker, 
a student of Emil Orlik in Berlin.

I was aware for some time of the existence of these two woodblock prints in the collections of one of the finest printdealers in America: Ed Ogul of Paramour Fine Arts (see here*) (a paramour: a significant other to whom you are not related by marriage)

But since these prints aren't meant for my collection, I decided it to be a good idea sharing them with you and try to discover maybe something more about this printmaker. And at the same time showing all prints by her presently known together in this posting. 

Also because as it happens there's another print by her for sale (Ebay) at this moment. But it is priced so considerably above my means and budget I can't  imagine my "best offer" will be interesting at all to the seller. It is a combination of a woodblock print and handcoloring. I'm curious to learn about the given date and location: 1920, Berlin. But a rare print it definitely is. 

It was very annoying to conclude there's almost nothing about Charlotte Rollins to be discovered at all. What we do know is she was in the teaching department of the Kunstgewerbe Museum (Arts and Crafts Museum) in Berlin, working with and probably a student of Emil Orlik (1870-1932) around 1905-1908*(see below). She is mentioned in the notes of the Reichskammer für Bildende Künste untill 1933. She is not mentioned in the memberships archives of the Verein der Berliner Künstlerinnen. Many of her contemporary colleagues, she must have met and known, are.

The buildings of the Kunst und Gewerbemuseum in Berlin (build 1880) were confiscated from 1933, around the last signs of life of Rollins. It was to  become the headquarters of the Nazis secret police, the Gestapo. The Art teaching Department in 1924 fused into the new Art Akademie Berlin and the buildings were slowly abandoned, the artists the last to go leaving their studio's in the rooftop floors. The buildings were destroyed in the conquering of Berlin in 1945 and finally demolished in the mid 1950's.

To my surprise the great Malcolm Salaman showed this copy of a print by Charlotte in his 1927 "the Art of the Woodcut" but forgets to mention her or the print completely in the text. Although he's honouring her by showing the print in full color. The book is a must for every print collector and reprinted (cheaply) in 2010. Together with the Studio/ Salaman's 1930 "the new woodcut" they show the world of modern woodblock printing 1910-1930. (This copy, carefully removed but nevertheless ripped from the book, is also available in Ebay, but you'ld do better and cheaper buying the complete book)

And finally here's the famous print by Emil Orlik and Charlotte Rollins that is signed also by her. I've found two dates for this print: 1905 and 1908* (see above). It's called "Still-life with fruits, pheasant and flowers". It's beautiful, complicated and elaborate. The postitioning of a piece of exotic leopardskin motive cloth (gown or dress) is an extraordinairy and modernistic find and greatly improves the compositions depth and  balance and is adding  a mysterious and oriental atmosphere. The year Rollins disappears from the records is the year of  Orliks death, 1932, and the year the buildings she may have once worked in confiscated and cleared. What did she do in the odd 25 years between 1905 /08 and 1933 ? Were did she come from ? 
I can't begin to understand why she hasn't left any other traces in history but I'm confident they will surface one day.


  1. An intriguing post and well worth doing. I have to admit she had barely registered with me at all (and I have both books you mention) so bringing the various images and bits of information together is a good start. Salaman's knowledge was broad but he wasn't foolproof.

    Are all these prints Japanese method? One link between Rollins and Orlik may be Morley Fletcher and I wonder whether she had been a student of his at the Central School.

    There is another avenue of enquiry and I will let you know if I come up with anything.


  2. Hello Charles, I look forward of course to all further facts. In all cases (but Salaman)it was mentioned that gouache coloring was applied and Japan paper was used.

  3. I've found a few mentions of a German woodcut printmaker called "Charlotte Rollius". I wonder if they could be the same person.

    She's mentioned in this New York Times review of 1912:

    And if you do a Google book search on her name you'll find quite a lot of tantalisiing snippets.

  4. Well well dear Holmes, you've solved a mystery. She's identical. Somewhere in time a misspelling has lead to contemporary obscurity. It explains also why her work is in the US. Thanks for the light. I have already begun digging into this of course and will do account soon. Watson.